In the latest episode of “Louder with Crowder,” CRTV host Steven Crowder interviewed Stephen Willeford, the 55-year-old NRA instructor who put himself in danger by confronting the Texas church shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley.
During the Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Kelley, 26, entered the church garbed in black tactical gear with a ballistic vest, armed with a Ruger AR-15 rifle, and shot 26 congregants and an unborn baby to death and injured 26 more.
Willeford told Crowder that he lives one block away from the church that was under attack. As Willeford recounted, it was his daughter who first suggested the sound he thought was “someone tapping on the window” was gunfire. Realizing it was gunfire, Willeford ran to his safe, grabbed his weapon and a box of ammunition, and left his house to confront the shooter.
Here are seven things we learned about this great hero and patriot through Crowder’s interview.
1. Willeford has ties to the community and to First Baptist Church
Willeford told Crowder that he loves the small community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a community that numbers “in the hundreds” and that he knew most of the congregants of First Baptist Church.
“I love my community. I love the people that are there. I know most of the people who went to the church there,” he said. “And most of them know my grandparents, the older ones, that’s how far back it goes.”
Willeford said that he has previously done volunteer work with the church. “It’s the time of the year that I’m growing my Santa beard, ’cause I go on a motorcycle ride with the Baptist church where we deliver toys for boys and girls of low income around Wilson County.” He had worked with and loved the people under attack, so he rushed to their defense.
2. An NRA instructor, Willeford taught his kids how to handle firearms
As Willeford was arming himself, one of his daughters drove her car around the block to investigate what was happening at the church. When she returned, she reported that there was an active shooter situation at the Baptist church.
Willeford said he began loading a magazine and started toward the door with his rifle. He told another of his daughters to load another magazine.
“My other daughter, I told her ‘load me another magazine,’” Willeford said. “And I knew she couldn’t come give me a magazine. It was busywork, I was trying to give her something to do, keep her in the house.”
As an NRA instructor, Willeford said his girls knew their way around firearms. “I started training all my kids; when they were 8 years old they were NRA distinguished experts.” He trained them because he didn’t want his kids to be helpless targets in a situation like this.
3. There’s a reason Willeford was barefoot
Willeford did not have shoes on when he confronted the shooter. There’s a reason for that.
“I ran out of the house — and some people said why did you run out barefoot?” Willeford said. “My answer was every time I heard a shot, I was thinking that was assigned to someone else. That shot was a sign that he was shooting at another person, every time I heard a shot fire — and I didn’t have time to put shoes on.”
4. Willeford believes divine intervention assisted him
When Willeford arrived at the scene of the shooting, he saw the shooter’s gray SUV in the street with the engine running and the door open.
“I saw the shooter come from around the vehicle, and this time he had a handgun in his hand,” said WIlleford. “My daughter said he had an AR-15, but when I saw him he had a handgun.” According to Willeford, that shooter had a “tactical helmet on like a SWAT team would use, with a black visor,” and a Kevlar bulletproof vest. He was 20 yards away when they began to exchange fire.
It was at this point Willeford believes divine intervention helped him stop the shooter.
“I’m a Christian … and I believe at this point … the Holy Spirit was on me because I had the presence of mind to look at what was going on, and as we exchanged fire, I noticed that the side was one of those tactical vests that velcros across, meaning he has Kevlar in the front, Kevlar in the back, nothing in the side.”
Willeford said he managed to shoot Kelley in between his armor panels, where his side was exposed. “I can’t explain the clarity of mind I had,” Willeford said. “I can’t explain it.”
Kelley fled in his vehicle, but Willeford kept on firing, blowing out one of the SUV’s windows as Kelley “blasted down the road.”
5. Willeford is mad at the media
“My issue is I feel like a prisoner in my own home because I can’t step out my own door,” Willeford told Crowder. “This is crazy, crazy. They’re coming up to my door and they’re sticking cards in my door. Sheriff Joe Tackitt told them if they come up into my yard again he was gonna arrest them. And when [the police] left, they were right back.”
Willeford suggested that the media is wrong to focus on him and what he’s done.
“This is where I want the focus for this to go … not me,” Willeford said. “I want the focus to go to the families of the community that I grew up in. The people that I love there, the people that I know, the church was very a small congregation, and 27 people are dead. Children are dead. Twenty or so are injured. That’s decimated their congregation.”
“I want to hug some of these people. I don’t even know which ones of my friends made it and didn’t. I don’t know because the media’s not giving me any information and they’re keeping me from seeing any of these people.”
6. Willeford used an AR-15, and that mattered in a big way
The mainstream media has widely reported that Devin Kelley used an AR-15 rifle to shoot up that church. Underreported so far is that Willeford used his own AR-15 rifle to confront and stop Kelley, and he says that made a difference.
“If I had run out of the house, and maybe this is a political plug or whatever, but if I had run out of the house with a pistol and faced bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets, it might’ve been futile,” Willeford said. “I ran out with an AR-15 and that’s what he was shooting the place up with. And I hate to politicize that but that’s reality.”
Willeford believes that if he had failed to stop Kelley, there may have been a shootout with police at some point. Willeford’s AR-15 was instrumental in preventing that from happening.
7. Willeford was terrified
Stephen Willeford does not think he was brave.
“I was terrified by the way. I’m no brave man, I was terrified,” he said. But Crowder noted that bravery is not fearlessness. Bravery is doing the right thing despite being afraid to do it. And if he had to do it over, Willeford said he would do the same thing without hesitation.
“I’ve been saying that this is tough. This is tough and nobody wants this. But I would do it again if I had to.”
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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